Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Love to Break Rules

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the little kid in me, but my immediate reaction upon hearing about a rule, a restriction or a closed door is “oh, yeah? Let’s see what happens when you cross this. What is anyone gonna do?”
One of the things that I wanted to do in writing The Bones of the Earth was to write a fantasy that breaks a lot of rules. But I always do two things before I break a rule:
      <!--[if !supportLists]-->1.       <!--[endif]-->I know what the rule is<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.       <!--[endif]-->I break it to achieve something.
In other words, I’m not just some berserker of the English language, out to smash everything standing. So I looked at the rules of fantasy. Some of the rules make sense. Many of the better fantasies draw upon ancient myths. This is important, because these myths speak to something very deep within readers — in all of us. They help make that vital connection between author and audience.
But many of the others exist just because writers are copying other writers, especially Tolkien. “Hey, if you liked Lord of the Rings, you’ll love my book. It’s the same thing, only different!” This is the same phenomenon that sparked so many books (and movies, and TV shows, and graphic novels ...) about sexy, sparkly and friendly vampires. How long until the Hunger Games rip-off? Oh, it’s out, already?
No, I set out to break some rules, bend others until they snapped, and perforate the boundaries of the genre to allow elements from other genres to invade. But there is one rule that I held to: I made sure it was still a story, a story about real people that interest readers.
Rules broken
Everyone loves free stuff, so I’m giving away copies of The Bones of the Earth. If you can answer a skill-testing question, I’ll send you a copy of my novel in the electronic format of your choice. For more details, visit Wodke Hawkinson’s blog at
All you have to do is read two excerpts:
Oh, you want a hint? Okay. Here are some of the conventions of fantasy writing that bug me the most. Now, you figure out which rules, tropes, conventions and clichés I did my best to wreck.
  • setting — place
  • setting — time
  • languages and names
  • nobles, princes and princesses
  • vampires and dragons
  • wise men and women
  • true love.
Good luck!
Scott Bury is author of The Bones of the Earth. His blog, Written Words, can be found at
He is a writer, editor and journalist based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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